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3D Mammograms for Breast Cancer Detection in the South Puget Sound Area

2D mammograms have long been the standard when screening women for breast cancer. In more recent years, this technology has evolved to produce an entirely new imaging test that creates a three-dimensional photo of the breast, which offers many more details about the breast tissue and potential areas of concern.

How a 3D Mammogram Is Made

A 3D mammogram, which is also frequently referred to as digital breast tomosynthesis, utilizes many X-ray images of the breast that are then combined to produce a three-dimensional view of the patient’s breast tissue. All X-rays are taken while the breast is compressed on a flat surface, which is similar to the process completed during a regular 2D mammogram.

It is ideal to compress the breast in order to widen the surface area and hold the tissue in place for a few seconds so that a clear image can be produced. Motion during an X-ray typically leads to a blurred photo, which can lead to misdiagnosis or obscured sections of the breast.

The imaging test itself typically lasts for approximately 10 minutes, though this may vary depending upon the particular patient and how many X-rays are taken to obtain various angles of the breast tissue. Your specialist will then review these images to determine if follow-up treatment is needed.

Who Is a Candidate for a 3D Mammogram?

Any person can have a 3D mammogram performed. Some patients simply prefer this more detailed type of diagnostic imaging, while others may have the examination specially ordered by their specialist at Northwest Medical Specialties.

While mammograms are of course vital in detecting and diagnosing cases of breast cancer, this is not the only factor that may influence the decision to order this particular test. Other considerations can include:

  • Their age: It is generally recommended for any female that is due for a mammogram to consider opting for a 3D mammogram. More specifically, women over 40 years of age should discuss this option with our office, as more mature individuals are at higher risk for developing breast cancer.
  • Known presence of dense breast tissue: Many women will experience gradually more dense breast tissue development as they age. Unfortunately, dense tissue can appear quite similar to abnormal or cancerous tissue on an X-ray. A 3D mammogram is better able to discern these varying levels of thickness in breast tissue compared to other types of mammographic tests.
  • Foregoing additional imaging: Since regular 2D mammograms can be less accurate, they have a higher likelihood of producing inconclusive or abnormal results. If our office notices any areas of concern based on a 2D mammogram, they will of course order follow-up evaluations of the patient’s breast to be conducted. Completing a 3D mammogram as the first step is often able to eliminate the potential need for multiple tests.
  • Improved detection rates: While 2D mammogram imaging is often sufficient to identify problematic areas in a patient’s breast tissue, 3D mammogram photos are simply more accurate in these findings. Statistically, a 3D mammogram is able to diagnose roughly 4 additional breast cases for every 1,000 women screened. This may not seem like a large variance, though it can be an imperative difference in how quickly patients are able to be diagnosed and thereby treated for breast cancer.

Speaking to Northwest Medical Specialties About Your Options

If you would prefer to complete a 3D mammogram in favor of the traditional 2D mammogram, simply contact Northwest Medical Specialties to request this type of examination during your next screening. We have five offices in the south Puget Sound area for your convenience. Patients may also call to schedule a consultation if they wish to learn more about 3D mammography, or other forms of diagnostic imaging they may wish to complete.

HEALTH ALERT! For the safety of our patients and staff only patients will be allowed into our clinics and everyone MUST wear a mask. See additional information regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19).


November 16, 2020 Update

During these difficult times we are making every effort to keep our patients and staff safe from COVID 19, we appreciate your patience and understanding with the changes you may have seen within our practice.

We strive to protect our patients and staff as much as we possibly can from any exposure on our premises.  NWMS has implemented a system wide policy that does not allow anyone in the building that is not a patient and everyone must wear an NWMS provided mask over their mouth and nose during their time on our premises.  This is to protect our vulnerable patients from the unforeseen possibility of exposure to COVID 19 which can be transmitted through aerosol droplets.  Sadly, we have had patients that have died from the complications of COVID 19, which is both devastating and preventable.

We offer a virtual visit option for family, friends, and companions to participate in the care of our patients through Zoom.  Our staff will assist you with every step of the login process and invite you to participate in real time from your vehicle or designated safe space in our building. Please contact us at 253-428-8700 to set this up.

The following offices are temporarily closed:

  • Bonney Lake
  • Federal Way

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, please make sure to contact us via phone prior to your appointment. You may also contact us for any additional questions by calling our office at (253) 428-8700.

Here are a few additional resources as well:

World Health Organization

Centers for Disease Control